Fall Mystery Catch-Up

Nov 4, 2017 | 2017 Articles, Cynthia Chow, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy

by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy

This week we have some more September & October mysteries from Penguin, & St. Martin’s authors-Death, Taxes, and a Shotgun Wedding: A Tara Holloway Novel by Diane Kelly, A Room with a Brew: A Brewing Trouble Mystery by Joyce Tremel, Death on Tap: A Sloan Krause Mystery by Ellie Alexander, Whispers of Warning: A Change of Fortune Mystery by Jessica Estevao, Death at the Seaside: Kate Shackleton series by Frances Brody, and The Essence of Malice: Amory Ames series by Ashley Weaver. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 6 books, along with links you can use to purchase them.

Death, Taxes, and a Shotgun Wedding: A Tara Holloway Novel by Diane Kelly
Review by Cynthia Chow

Tara Holloway and Nick Pratt are indeed planning a shotgun wedding, but the bride isn’t pregnant and no one is reluctant to walk down the aisle. This is Texas, and since Nick and Tara are IRS Criminal Investigation Agents there’s a 100% probability that the wedding party will be armed. Ensuring a weaponized ceremony are threatening notes and recent attempts on Tara’s life, indicating that someone intends to see that she never receives a Happily Ever After.

bookThe diminutive agent is more than a little proud of both her marksmanship and skill at tracking down criminals, so it’s no surprise that Tara has a rather long list of enemies. It’s up to Tara and her fellow agents to discover which of her many foes want their revenge, all the while pursuing a new case, moving into a new home, and remaining under constant protection. She’d never call it being babysat, but having to temporarily move in with her future mother-in-law does kill the mood on any hanky panky with her fiancé. A real estate scam brought to them by a frustrated Dallas PD detective may have cost its victims a total of $120,000, but it also has the benefit of Tara working undercover as an Uber-like driver and enduring immediate customer-service ratings. The only thing more frustrating than demanding passengers is the paranoia caused by an unknown opponent.

As the twelfth and final novel of the series, readers are treated to a nostalgic journey through her past cases, reintroducing us to some of our favorite characters. Drug dealers, terrorists, con artists, strippers, and gangsters have entertained us for years, and we are reminded how intricate and deadly Tara’s cases have been. They were also undeniable fun, and the reward for going along on her often hysterical adventures is a wrap-up and coda that beautifully ties up storylines and delivers a heart-warming finale. As a long-time fan of this very funny, witty, and thrilling series, I can’t imagine a more satisfying conclusion than the one presented here. As bittersweet as it is to say goodbye to Tara, Nick, Eddie, and their bouffanted boss Lu Lobozinski, readers can re-read past books and look fondly upon these fascinating tales of financial shenanigans, larcenous villains, and the law enforcement heroes who track them down.

A Room with a Brew: A Brewing Trouble Mystery by Joyce Tremel
Review by Cynthia Chow

The start of September finds Pittsburgh’s Allegheny Brew House preparing to host its first Oktoberfest weekend. Germany’s official holiday actually lasts through the final two weeks of September, but the brewpub’s owner Maxine “Max” O’Hara has more than enough on her plate just planning the menu and booking a genuine oompah band. The rehearsal performance of the Deutschmen seems to go well until Max notices her bakery-owning friend Candy Scypinski’s out-of-character, standoffish reaction to them, or more specifically, Candy’s refusal to acknowledge the accordion player’s interest in her. When his fellow sousaphone player contacts Max wanting to meet to discuss the incident, instead of Doodle Dowdy she finds Candy rifling through his house. Doodle soon turns up dead in the rehearsal hall before Max has a chance to talk to him, placing her in the very uncomfortable position of knowing that Candy is hiding her share of secrets.

bookCandy may not be open about her past, but Max knows that she’s not a murderer. So she rallies the amateur investigating team known as Max’s Marauders, locals who know all the gossip and are always willing to help out a friend. What they learn is shocking, leading them down an intriguing but dangerous path of espionage, war crimes, and theft. Along with her hockey-playing chef boyfriend, overprotective five brothers, and Pittsburg detective father, Max discovers that she may need to reassess her viewpoint on not just the victim, but of the motives behind the murder.

Fall in Pittsburgh has never been as appealing as it is in this unique and welcoming series. The author vividly depicts the unique aspects of this northeast community. The native Pittsburgh Yinzers respect the “parking chair” that reserve recently snow-shoveled parking spots, put fries on their salads, and save weekends for football games with the family. Max takes a very practical and methodical approach to her investigation, and she is motivated by her affection and protectiveness towards those she loves. One would never expect to find Pittsburg as welcoming or appealing as it is seen here, and this is due in no small part to the quirkiness and delightful good-humor of the characters who love to live there.

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Death on Tap: A Sloan Krause Mystery by Ellie Alexander
Review by Sandra Murphy

Sloane Krause was a foster kid, shuffled from home to home, never feeling like she had a family until she met Mac. He’s charming, good-looking, on auto-flirt, has a warm and loving family in brother Hans, and parents Otto and Ursula. She fell in love with all of them. Married now for fifteen years, Sloane and Mac have a son, Alex, live on a farm where they grow hops and both work in the family business—brewing beer.

Life is good until she walks into the office to find her husband with his pants around his ankles and the new barmaid sprawled on the desk. “It’s not what it looks like” isn’t the best thing for Mac to say at the time. Her marriage, job, and life are in shambles. book

She’s not able to face work since she’ll constantly be reminded of what happened. Hans tells her about a new nano-brewery (smaller than a micro-brewery) that’s about ready to open. The beer part is set, but Garrett needs a lot of help with food, ambiance and marketing.

Sloane is hired, sight unseen, based on Hans’ recommendation. Adding warmth to the super-white walls, creating food that includes the unique beers, and prepping Garrett for what will happen at the soft opening take her mind off her problems.

That is, until Mac and “the beer wench” show up. It’s hard to ignore the fact that the whole town is discussing her disastrous life. Still, the night is a success, and she’s energized to build on that by coming up with a couple of new beer flavors of her own. Plans never seem to work out though because the next morning, she finds a body in the fermenting tank. A body is a surprise for sure, but who it is, makes it even worse.

With Mac under suspicion, Sloane keeps her eyes open for other suspects. There are more than she would have thought. Although Garrett is afraid people will boycott the bar, he was wrong. The town is supportive, loves beer and after all, it was the scene of a real crime.

This is the first in a new series. Sloane is a woman of many layers. She craves family, faces adversity with more patience and grace than most anyone could muster, loves to cook, and makes people feel welcome (except “the beer wench”). Mac—will he ever change? Only time will tell. There’s a lot going on for such a small town. Oktoberfest is right around the corner. Readers will eagerly await to see what predicaments Sloane finds herself in then.

Whispers of Warning: A Change of Fortune Mystery by Jessica Estevao
Review by Sandra Murphy

Ruby Proulx used to travel with her father. She told fortunes, and he sold snake oil. Unfortunately, he was as gullible as his own buyers and fell for every get rich quick scheme that came long. The last one had horrible consequences. Following his usual style of blaming someone else, he conveniently was willing to throw Ruby under the wagon, so to speak. She escaped to her aunt.

Aunt Honoria is eccentric to say the least. She runs a small hotel in a town full of larger, more posh places to stay. Her niche is advertising all the employees have paranormal talents. Ruby still predicts the future although she’s not sure she’s the real thing. She does hear a voice that advises her and is relieved to find out she’s not insane.

book A renowned Spiritualist, Sophronia Foster Elderidge, arrives at the hotel for a month long stay during which time, she’ll raise awareness of the need for women to have a say in what goes on—in other words, women should be able to vote. The very men who think women are too delicate to decide their own futures are not shy about beating the marching women.

Sophronia is seen arguing with an influential man, receives threatening letters, and still will not stop. Ruby and her friend are right in the middle of things, much to the dismay of Honoria who has had a dream. She is afraid it means Ruby will come to harm.

At the rally, young boys set off firecrackers, race through the crowd, knocking down women. The stage collapses and several women are injured. Sophronia says she will not be stopped—but she is. Her body is found in a pool at the local bathhouse. Ruby feels she must find out what really happened before her aunt’s reputation is ruined and the hotel is lost.

This is the second book in the series. Ruby is becoming more comfortable with her gift. She’s also making a place for herself in the town. Her friend’s brother, Officer Yancey, finds her fascinating and infuriating at the same time. Expect sparks to fly in the future. Ruby’s past may yet catch up to her.

For a look back to how women were treated as capable of running a household, raising children, and doing volunteer work while being too dim to vote or have many of the rights we now take for granted, this tale will entertain as it shows us just how far we’ve come. If you want to see what’s in the future, perhaps one of the psychics at the hotel might be of service.

Death at the Seaside: Kate Shackleton series by Frances Brody
Review by Sandra Murphy

Kate Shackleton is an investigator with help from Jim Sykes and her housekeeper, Mrs. Sugden. August is vacation time, too hot for anything else so time off is a relaxing good idea. Kate is off to visit an old school chum, Alma, who has fallen on hard times. Years ago, she married Walter. Kate thought it a mistake even then. Walter is a wanderer, off to parts unknown all the time. The best part of the marriage was Felicity, their daughter and Kate’s goddaughter.

Alma has become Madame Alma, a fortune teller on the pier. Her predictions are vague enough to satisfy her clients and to bring in a bit of money. Felicity now works at a local tea shop. The visit doesn’t go as planned. Felicity is nowhere to be found but a note says she’ll be in touch as soon as she can. Brendan, a local boy, is also missing. They’re presumed to be together, but is it an elopement, an adventure, or is Felicity looking for Walter? book

Kate likes the small town, but it brings back memories of her own marriage. Her husband didn’t come back from the war so the memories are bittersweet. She decides to stop in the jewelry store to get a gift for Felicity. It was the same shop where her wedding rings were bought. However, no one comes to wait on her so she explores, only to find the body of the jeweler in the office.

Things get worse as the local constable is in over his head and takes Kate into what he calls protective custody overnight. Mostly, that means he wants to know where she is and that she’s not planning to leave. Alma also comes under suspicion when Kate finds out the jeweler was a suitor—one with much needed money.

Set in 1920s England, the book is a slower pace than modern times with fast cars, cell phones, and computers. There’s still plenty of suspense as Felicity and Brendan are on a refurbished boat during a storm that causes high waves, Alma doesn’t face bad news, her friend is attacked and long held secrets are exposed.

This is the eighth book in the series. Since it’s holiday time, readers have a chance to meet Mrs. Sykes who takes part in the investigation too. Kate is certainly someone you’d want to have your back if things went wrong. Mr. Sykes has high morals and great determination. Mrs. Sugden is able to find clues they can’t. The books are enjoyable reads that not only take you to another time but another country as well—just like a vacation.

The Essence of Malice: Amory Ames series by Ashley Weaver
Review by Sandra Murphy

Enroute to their home in London after a month in Como, Italy, Milo and Amory change plans after he receives a letter from his former nanny, asking them to visit. It’s unlike her to make such a request so they agree. An updated plan takes them to Paris where they discover Nanette’s employer and former lover has been killed. In what appears to be strange turn of events, Helios Belanger hired Nanette to be nanny for the toddler he has with his second wife. She’s younger than the children from his first marriage.

Belanger is famous for the perfumes he creates. His company announced a new perfume, the one that will outshine all others, and it’s almost ready. A well-known sculptor designed the bottle which will be revealed at a gala event. Who will be in charge of the company now? Cecile develops the formulas, Anton is the business side, and Michel, well, he doesn’t do much of anything except gamble, drink, and chase women, some of them married. book

Also in question is the formula for the new perfume. Although only two copies exist, one has disappeared from a locked safe. Helios and his lawyer have the only keys. The other copy is mostly gibberish. Who could have swapped it for the real formula?

Add in rumors that Helios was having an affair, his wife was having an affair, Helios was poisoned (no autopsy was performed by request of the family), and it’s a muddled mess.

Amory has just begun to trust Milo, who had a reputation for living fast and wild. Now he’s lying to her and she doesn’t know whether to confront him or keep the status quo. When his peace offering is a small monkey named Emile, she doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Under the ruse of commissioning a custom perfume, Amory and Milo are able to interact with the Belanger family, most often, not a pleasant experience. With tension and tempers on the rise, it’s time to ferret out the killer and get on with their own lives.

This is the fourth book in the series plus a Kindle short (54 pages). Milo and Amory have a push/pull relationship in that she wants to know more about him, but he doesn’t want to discuss the past. She’s understanding about his personality but only to a point. Still, they have a loving, if unusual, relationship, a bit like Nick and Nora Charles of the Thin Man movies.

Step back in time to when money and liquor flow freely, travel is easy with a maid and valet, and a little monkey can distract from most any concern of the day.

Editor’s Note: Kings River Life Magazine was recently selected by Feedspot as one of the Top 50 Mystery Blogs on the web!

To enter to win a copy of all 6 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “fall catchup,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 11, 2017. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.

Click on this link to purchase any of these books. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the Amazon link:


Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the Arch in St. Louis Missouri. She writes about eco-friendly topics, pets and wildlife for magazines and reviews mysteries and thrillers for KRL. A collection of her short stories, published by Untreed Reads, From Hay to Eternity: Ten Tales of Crime and Deception can be found at all the usual outlets. Each one is a little weird and all have a twist you won’t see coming.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. I love historical mysteries and there is a boatload here. Thank you for the contest. This is such fun.
    Marilyn ewatvess@yahoo.com

  2. I would love to read these books! Thanks for the opportunity!

  3. All sound great and the covers are wonderful! Thanks for the giveaway.

  4. Wow, this is an impressive list of books! I enjoyed reading the summaries. Thanks!

  5. Thank you! So pleased to be in such great company

  6. I would love to win these books so I have something to read in the cold Minnesota days to come. Thank you for the chance.

    • Lamonicaks at gmail dot com

  7. Some good ones here I would love to add to the tbr list.

  8. So many books!!! parkeremma2003 at yahoo dotcom

  9. Wow! Count me in. They sound great!
    jsomers421 at gmail dot com

  10. I have several of these books on my wish list. I would love to win them!

  11. These are what I need to read while under a warm quilt, with a cup of hot tea during the winter months ahead.

  12. I have read all of Ashley Weaver and Francis Brody. Love their female characters. The others are a good way to read new authors! Thanks!

  13. Historical and cozy mysteries are my favorite. Thank you for the chance to win. Dmskrug3(at)hotmail(dot)com

  14. Wow I just love all 6 books and a few of those I have read a previous book by the author this is a dream come true and thank you for offering! ptclayton2@aol.com

  15. Wonderful books & authors.

  16. I’d love a chance to win all six books. I’m mid- series on Tara Holloway, love Amory and Milo, and just read the first Change of Fortune book the other day. Thank you for this opportunity.

  17. I just love mysteries! Awesome list!
    ruthaw_1974 (at) yahoo.com

  18. I would love to win!!!! Reading is my Happy place!! Help me Zen! 🙂

  19. All these books sound like fabulous reads, and would get me into some new series! My email address is booknerdcat@gmail.com

  20. Oh man these are all on my wish list amazing authors ty for the chance mortalsinn @ yahoo DOT com

  21. this is a wonderful group of books/authors.

  22. These look like some good books. I would love to win.

  23. Wow! What a great collection of books. Would really enjoy reading all of them. Thanks for the chance.

  24. I would love to add these titles to my home library. I own previous books of one or two of them.

  25. Wonderful giveaway of great authors! Thank you for the chance


  26. We have the winner!


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